I like when Larry McMurtry writes about the Old West in smaller scopes, even if at the end he tries to broaden that scope out in unsuccessful ways. This short novel begins with a a sheriff visiting a local farmstead and having his horse shot out from under him by the matriarch of the house who, according to her statement, mistook the horse for an elk. The family is hungry and they butcher the horse, so who knows what the truth is. Not our narrator, a teen boy who is also interested in what the sheriff came to say. He showed up to rent the mules at the farm in order to create a posse to go after a local gang of ruffians. On hearing this, the narrator’s uncle says he and the two teen boys will go for the $50 the sheriff was trying to pay Wild Bill Hickock to join, who happened to be playing cards in a local saloon. Wild Bill does join and the small posse is successful. This leads to some new events, where the mother decides she needs to speak to the boys’ father, who is out building forts in the Sioux nation. She also suspects he might have started a new family or two. So the novel goes from a posse novel to a travelling novel.
Like I said, it’s short, but it’s solid. There’s a little much of the late-career McMurtry desire to narrate history through fiction, and not enough just writing good fiction. This is most present when the relatively small novel feels the need to tell the subsequent histories of all major players decades hence. It’s too much for an otherwise concise storytelling.(Photo: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/63447.Boone_s_Lick?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=sOlWc8HEO4&rank=1)